Play­off-bound Swe­den beaten as Robben signs off in style for Dutch

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

AM­S­TER­DAM: Ar­jen Robben ended his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer after scor­ing twice to hand the Nether­lands a 2-0 win over Swe­den in their World Cup qual­i­fier on Tues­day as the Dutch fell well short of the seven goals they needed to reach the play­offs.

Both Swe­den and the Nether­lands ended the qual­i­fy­ing com­pe­ti­tion level on 19 points, be­hind Group A win­ners France, but the Swedes fin­ished sec­ond to seal the play­off place be­cause of a su­pe­rior goal dif­fer­ence.

They fin­ished with a tally of +17, eight goals bet­ter off than the Dutch who had to win by a seven-goal mar­gin to over­turn the deficit. The home side started brightly in the Am­s­ter­dam Arena with Robben con­vert­ing a 16th-minute penalty and then ham­mer­ing home a su­perb left-footed shot five min­utes be­fore half­time to raise the hopes of the home fans.

The Dutch, how­ever, lacked the nec­es­sary cre­ativ­ity as Swe­den shut up shop in the sec­ond half and the match fiz­zled out. The en­counter proved to be the last in­ter­na­tional for the 33-year-old Robben, who after 96 caps, re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion as he limped through the last min­utes.

After the fi­nal whis­tle, the Swedish play­ers went to their chang­ing room to cel­e­brate, leav­ing the stage free for Robben to say farewell to the fans. “We knew we didn’t have a chance but it was an amazing game. It hasn’t been an easy de­ci­sion but I am 33 and now must give my full fo­cus to my club,” said Robben.

Miss­ing out on the World Cup caps a re­mark­able demise for the Nether­lands, who were run­ners-up at the 2010 tour­na­ment in South Africa and third in Brazil in 2014. Yet they have now missed out on a sec­ond ma­jor tour­na­ment after also fail­ing in their bid to qual­ify for last year’s Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship in France.

The open­ing Dutch goal fol­lowed a hand­ball by Swedish de­fender Vic­tor Lin­de­lof, although Robben mis­cued a cheeky chip from the penalty spot and was for­tu­nate that Swedish goal­keeper Robin Olsen had al­ready com­mit­ted to dive. Robben’s sec­ond goal, how­ever, was a sweep­ing fin­ish after the ball was laid back to him in the Swedish area. —Reuters

AM­S­TER­DAM: Nether­land’s Ar­jen Robben, left, greets sup­port­ers as he leaves the pitch flanked by his sons at the end of the World Cup Group A soc­cer qual­i­fy­ing match be­tween the Nether­lands and Swe­den at the Arena sta­dium in Am­s­ter­dam. — AP

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